People leave managers not companies

If your organisation has a turnover problem look no further than your managers and supervisors. 
A report by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman of the Gallup Organisation claims that the single most likely reason for good staff leaving an organisation is their immediate line manager or supervisor. Strategies to retain good staff have involved golden handcuffs, loyalty bonuses, additional holidays, study leave and a range of perks but the findings of this study indicate these are ineffective and a wast of money. If you want to keep good staff improve the quality of their line management. 

This is not a new piece of research but one that seems to be overlooked because it is rather inconvenient. An organisation doesn't like to admit it has managers whose behaviour drives good staff away. The reality may be masked as these same managers are often competent in other areas like bmanaging their budgets and  hitting performance targets. Typically this type of manager doesn't take risks or rock the boat, has been in post a number of years and whilst they may be cynical with in the team the tend to say the right thing to their boss and senior management. Their management methods include bullying, undermining, exploiting and controlling often go unnoticed out side the team other than the fact that they can't hold on to good staff. Whilst these managers may be the extreme there are plenty who take their staff for granted, criticise but rarely  praise, routinely exploit good will, are quick to take credit for success but slow to acknowledge the contribution of others and don't seek the opinion of their staff because they believe the only view that maters is their own. Not surprisingly staff don't want to work for them.

The implications from this reports findings are that it is cost effective to invest in management development that improves the quality of people management because recruiting staff is expensive, time consuming and no guaranty that the replacement will be a success. People management is about supervisor skills , that is supporting,  nurturing, and challenging. This is achieved through regular (anything from four weekly to four times a year) one to one sessions to discuss work, provide feedback, recognise effort and achievement, clarify expectations, allocate tasks and negotiate time scales. Allocated tasks should be appropriate to the grade of post, the experience of the individual and their existing commitments but should also stretch the individual, give them new learning experiences and increased confidence. A great manager does not use supervision to control or simply tell staff what to do.  

Being supportive and getting to know your staff as individuals is not restricted to supervision sessions but is a general approach to management adopted through all the interactions with staff. In the absence of daily face to face contact how you speak to staff on the phone or the tone of your texts and emails reflects this human approach. You can be friendly without being over familiar. You can be business like with appearing to be issuing a series of commands. A good indication of a managers skills in these areas is if you were listening to then on the phone could you tell whether they were speaking to their boss/ senior manager, a colleague in HR or finance or one of their staff. Chatty and charming to everyone or only to their boss and those they want a favour from. 

As someone once said don't judge a person on how they speak to people who can help their career but how they speak to people who can't. 

If you want to keep good staff make sure their line manager makes them feel valued. 

Blair McPherson former director and  author of Equipping managers for an Uncertain future published by Russell House 




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Louise Reeve 4 Years Ago
An interesting post which raises an awkward question: can you actually convert a manager who manages by "bullying, undermining, exploiting and controlling" or "taking their staff for granted, criticising but rarely praising, routinely exploiting goodwill, are quick to take credit for success but slow to acknowledge the contribution of others" into managers who are "supporting, nurturing, and challenging"? Or is the issue that some people are in management posts who simply should not be there? And if the answer is "no" (at least in some cases), will the organisation take the step of removing them from their posts and replacing them with people who can manage better - if they do, is it still 'cost-effective'? Performance management of managers is a very, very tricky thing to get right. (Also Blair, I really hope you don't mind me saying this, but I think your post needs a little proof-reading.)
Blair McPherson 4 Years Ago
Louise thanks for taking the time to read and comment on this. The research has implications for what we look for when we appointing managers and how we develop managers for example 360 degree feedback, coaching and mentoring. Managing managers is challenging but would we ignor a manager who regularly over spent their budget or reapetedly failed to hit performance targets!